The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has instituted a court action against the federal government and the minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola for their failure to enforce the electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to provide free prepaid meters to all their customers.
In suit number, FHC/L/CS/906/17, it filed at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, SERAP blamed both parties for “their collective failure, refusal and/or negligence to enforce their own directives to electricity distribution companies (DisCos) to provide free prepaid meters to all Nigerians.”
SERAP is also seeking the leave of the court to order the firms to end the use of patently illegal, arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory estimated billing across the country.
Accordingly, the group expressed dismay over failure to enforce the directive on estimated billing.
“By failing and/or neglecting to enforce his directives to DisCos, Fashola is implicitly promoting the use of unjustifiable estimated billing, and increasing consumer costs. The use of estimated billing is marginalising Nigerians living in extreme poverty, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly, and increasing their vulnerability to discrimination.”
SERAP also argued that it is Fashola’s duty to make sure operators do the right thing.
“Mr. Fashola’s constitutional and statutory responsibility right is not just to give directives to DisCos to provide free pre-paid meters to all Nigerians, but also to decisively enforce such directives and end the use of estimated billing.
“Effective access to electricity includes metering of all consumers. It is the responsibility of the federal government, and Fashola, cannot shy away from it.” The group said that, “unless the reliefs sought are granted, Fashola and the federal government will not perform their constitutional and statutory responsibilities to enforce the directives to DisCos to provide free pre-paid meters to all Nigerians.”
“It is in the interest of justice to ensure strict enforcement of directives, deadlines and regulations on provision of free pre-paid meters to all Nigerians, and put an end to estimated billing.”
The suit, brought pursuant to Order 34 of the FHC Rules and the inherent jurisdiction of the court, was signed by SERAP’s deputy director Timothy Adewale.
The suit followed the organisation’s request to Fashola asking him to “urgently enforce your directives and discharge your ministerial and statutory duty to ensure completion of metering of unmetered customers and total abolition of estimated billing in the country.”
The suit reads in part: “Access to regular electricity supply is a prerequisite for satisfying basic human needs, improving living standards, maintaining good human health, alleviating poverty and facilitating sustainable development. It’s unlawful for DisCos to disconnect electricity supplies on the basis of unpaid estimated bills.
“Electricity provides a safe means of cooking (through electric stoves) and food preservation (refrigeration). Electricity is, therefore, essential to agriculture; and a prerequisite for food security. Electricity can also be employed to realise the human right to access clean water.”
It adds: “Excessive billing of customers is arbitrary, unfair, unjust, unreasonable and exploitative of millions of socially and economically vulnerable groups. The apparent failure by Mr. Fashola to exercise due diligence and effective regulatory oversight on DisCos to ensure full compliance with the directives to provide free pre-paid meters to Nigerians has denied millions of customers regular and uninterrupted access to electricity.
“For several years after the country’s power sector was privatised, millions of Nigerian households particularly the socially and economically vulnerable sectors of the population continue to complain about outrageous bills for electricity not consumed and poor power supply from distribution companies.”
“Mr. Fashola has issued several directives and deadlines by both his office and through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, for distribution companies to provide free pre-paid meters to all customers, but he has failed, refused, and/or neglected to enforce the said directives, and millions of electricity users across the country remain unmetered.”